Pyramid Lake is truly a World-class fishing destination, when the fishing is good. Being successful here whether you fish in a boat or from shore is a matter of knowing where, when and how to fish for the sporting fish of this picturesque desert lake.
Pyramid Lake is the only remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan that contains Lahontan cutthroat trout and Cui-ui. Tui chub and Tahoe sucker are two other fish species that also evolved in Lake Lahontan to make up the fish community present today. There is one introduced specie, the Sacramento Perch, that was stocked into the Truckee River system in the late 1800's that are successfully reproducing in the alkaline waters of the lake.
We invite you to become one with the seasons of this lake to gain an understanding of where feeding fish can be located. Let's begin our annual cycle in later winter when water temperatures along the shore of the lake remain in the 40's from January into March. During this time fish metabolism and activity is very low. Tui chub, Tahoe sucker and Cui-ui are out in deep water (up to 120 feet) maintaining a low profile from the predaceous Lahontan cutthroat trout. The trout are the only fish that are common in the shallows during this time where they cruise looking for insects and small crustaceans. Food supplies are low at this time and it's not unusual for fish to have empty stomachs.
From March through June, as the days get longer, the inshore waters begin to increase in temperature. All fish species here are spring spawners. During March and April, as water temperatures rise to the high 40's, fish get more active and the cutthroat trout concentrate inshore looking for running water to spawn. Some anglers say that March is the best time to catch big fish. The peak bite for shore anglers usually occurs in mid-April when most mature cutthroat trout are ready to spawn. When inshore waters approach 50 degrees, numerous schools of cutthroat can be seen cruising in very shallow water, often behind the line up of anglers on their ladders. Due to the large mass of water in the lake, storms with high winds can mix with the inshore waters and retard the warming of the lakes surface, changing the peak bite by up to 3 weeks from one year to the next.
Tui chub move inshore in May and June, staging to spawn along the shore when water temperatures rise over 61 degrees. By this time, the cutthroat spawn is over and the trout are off the bite. Both the Cui-ui and Tahoe suckers will run up the Truckee River to spawn, though it is believed that the suckers can also successfully spawn in the lake. Tahoe suckers show up in the Marble Bluff fishway sooner than Cui-ui and large Cui-ui runs are triggered in the years when high flows bring muddy water to the lake with temperatures in the mid 50's. This most often takes place in May.
Surface temperatures in late June get too warm for the cutthroat trout and they move into deeper cooler water. For most of the summer, the Tui chub are thermally isolated from the cutthroat trout, who return to shallow water only briefly to forage on the clouds of young Tui chub fry. As with most large water bodies located at this latitude, Pyramid Lake becomes thermally stratified into three layers during late summer. The upper layer is called the epilimnion with the warm surface water, the middle layer is called the thermocline due to its rapid change in water temperature and the lower layer is called the metalimnion. Those fish that prefer warmer water are found in the epilimnion in the summer and the trout must seek the cooler water found near the thermocline.
Approaching fall, the days get shorter and surface water temperatures begin to drop. The cutthroat trout begin to move inshore when the temperatures get in the low 60's enjoying the bounty of minnows in shallow water. By the time the trout season begins in October, anglers are wise to locate lingering schools of Tui chub and fish around them. Fall fishing can be good, particularly between Thanksgiving and Christmas when inshore water temperatures are in the low 50's and high 40's. The lowest catch rates of the year come when water temperatures hit the low 40's and stay there from January through early May. Our annual cylcle has been completed.
The main focus for most anglers is the lake's large Lahontan cutthroat trout during a season that runs from October 1 through June 30. All anglers 12 years of age or older must have a Tribal fishing permit which are available on your way to the lake at the Nixon Store, the Pyramid Lake Store on the Pyramid Lake highway or the I-80 Smoke-shop. If you are at the lake you can pick up permits at the Ranger's Station at the Sutcliffe Marina, Crosby's Lodge or our Administration Building. Permits are also available on line at: pyramidlake.us